canoe outfitting questions

I’ve got a Mad River Explorer 14. I’m getting to the point where I’m using it almost exclusively solo. It currently has a centered yoke and two seats.

If I remove the current seats, would I replace them with thwarts to maintain structural support? And if I’m going to install a seat/butt support closer to the center for kneeling, I’m guessing that means the yoke is going bye-bye as well.

Lastly, I’m going to need flotation bags, but I hear that triple tough, and polyethylene in general, don’t hold glue very well. All of the flotation bag set-ups I’ve seen online involve glueing D-rings to the floor. Are there feasible set-ups that avoid this?

In short, feeling a bit overwhelmed at all the changes I need to make in order to make my boat more suitable for what I’m doing…

I’m sure others will add to this.

  1. Locate your center seat front edge about 8-12 inches back of center. This will leave you slightly bow high.

  2. Center yoke goes, but you can replace it with either a clamp on carry yoke, or as I did a piece of 2 inch webbing attached to one side, rolled up when not in use, and 2 stainless D rings on the other side. When you want to carry the canoe thread the webbing thru the drings and tighten.

  3. I would put a thwart in each location you had a seat - use the existing gunnel holes to mount the thwarts.

  4. Air bags could be installed w/o floor mounted drings. Install some type of retainer high on the hull - webbing loops, plastic inch worms, or drill holes high on the hull. Thru those install some lacing cord to cover the top of the air bags. Air bags usually have tie off grommets - use these to anchor the bag to the boat.

outfitting options
Are you planning to paddle your canoe on significant whitewater? Do you intend to kneel exclusively or sometimes kneel and sometimes sit?

Since you plan to install flotation I am guessing that you might plan to use the boat for whitewater or at least river paddling in current.

Personally, I prefer to set up my whitewater canoes to be trimmed neutrally, but some prefer them slightly bow light and this is a matter of personal preference. Some will try to place a seat or kneeling thwart behind a center portage yoke leaving enough clearance to kneel behind the yoke. This precludes sitting and even when kneeling exclusively I find this method results in a boat too bow light for my tastes. If you anticipate paddling with some load routinely, however, you might be able to trim the canoe by placing the load in front of you.

I would ditch the center yoke as waterbearer suggests and plan to place two thwarts forward and aft using whichever seat bolt holes that result in the most symmetrical arrangement of thwarts. Thwarts can be obtained at reasonable prices from Ed’s Canoe or Essex Industries.

Options for center seating include a wood-framed traditional seat, a kneeling thwart, or a minicell foam pedestal. A traditional seat is probably the best choice if you plan to sometimes sit but it will need to be mounted high enough to allow good clearance for your heels when kneeling to reduce the risk of entrapment. If you plan to kneel exclusively, a foam pedestal, or possibly a kneeling thwart may be better options. Some avoid kneeling thwarts (or seats) for whitewater to avoid the risk of heel entrapment but others use them. A thwart or seat canted downward at the forward end will usually be more comfortable for kneeling than one mounted flat. Seats and kneeling thwarts can be obtained from the sources already mentioned.

Flotation bags are usually made of vinyl or lighter (and much more expensive) urethane nylon. The vinyl bags typically have grommets at the “points” that go through little ears of vinyl attached to the bag. The more expensive nylon bags typically have nylon webbing loops sewn into the bag seams. Unfortunately, the grommets on vinyl bags often rip out pretty easily when subjected to any real stress. The nylon loops hold up much better.

When water gets into the canoe it will tend to try to force the inflated bag out of the narrow stem and float it toward the center cockpit area. That is why the flotation bag “cages” used by most whitewater open boaters often have one or more “keeper straps” that restrain the inflated bag in the stem. For casual whitewater or river use you might be able to get by using only the end grommet or loop of the bag tied into the stem.

If your canoe does not already have end grab loops running through the hull at each end I would suggest adding them. Either 1" webbing or synthetic rope will work. Just drill holes through the hull big enough for the rope or webbing near the stems and high enough so that the loop does not drag in the water. You will need some 3mm diameter nylon accessory cord or paracord for your float bags. Run a short length of cord through the same holes that your grab loops go through and tie it to itself inside the hull forming a loop underneath each deck plate. This nylon cord loop will provide a convenient anchor point for either a grommet tie down or a center line “keeper strap”.

It is difficult to get an adequate bond of D rings to polyethylene but West Systems G Flex epoxy will work if you first flame oxidize the hull surface using an inexpensive propane torch. Jamestown Distributors, NRS and other vendors sell kits with 4 ounces of G Flex resin and 4 ounces of hardener which will be plenty to mount a half dozen D rings or more. Epoxy does not result in an immediate tack bond like contact cement or vinyl cement so you must tape the D ring in place till the epoxy cures. It is also a good idea to lightly weight the D ring with a small water bag or sand bag.

If you choose to mount a foam pedestal, waterproof contact cement such as DAP Weldwood will work fine on polyethylene since there is no distracting force. You don’t need to use epoxy for that purpose.

Inch wide webbing of either polypropylene or nylon or polyester works well for keeper straps. Use Fastex nylon “triglides” to secure the ends of the keeper straps.

To rig up the bag cage I would run your nylon accessory cord or paracord through small holes drilled through the hull just below the gunwales. You can buy nylon “inchworms” that screw into the gunwales to run the cord through, but they really don’t provide any advantage unless you plan to remove the bag cage cord regularly.

My reason for positioning…
The front edge of the center seat about 8-12 back of center is that I like to both sit when things are calm and kneel when I need more stability…

If you mount the center seat using the holes where the center carry yoke was you’ll be fine if you are sitting. However, once you kneel the back of your thighs will hit the front edge of the seat and most all of your body weight will be forward of center, rendering you bow heavy. Bow heavy is not what you want to be in white water.

With the seat positioned 8-12 inches back of center, once you kneel your canoe will be neutral or slightly bow high.

seat positioning

– Last Updated: Mar-31-16 5:21 PM EST –

Positioning a pedestal or seat for a whitewater canoe can be a little complex. Generally speaking, a kneeling paddlers center of gravity will be somewhere in the vicinity of their navel when sitting with torso upright. The center of the hip joint winds up around 4 1/2" aft of center for a symmetrical hull. But this can vary somewhat from paddler to paddler. Those with very long femurs may have a center of gravity a little further forward.

Where to position a pedestal, or the front edge of a seat or kneeling thwart relative to center in order to place the hip joint 4 1/2" aft of center is going to depend on how high the seating surface is, and in the case of a thwart or seat, how much of your rear end you place on the thwart or seat. If you use the kneeling thwart or seat as nothing more than a "butt prop" it will need to be mounted farther aft than if you place a significant portion of your rear end on it. A lower kneeling position will require seat placement further forward than a higher one.

The best way to assure seat placement for a neutral trim is to place the empty boat in the water and position some strips of 2" wide duct tape near the bow and stern with the bottom edge even with the water surface. The sit in the boat on a loose pedestal or some type of temporary seat with the seating surface at the desired height of your thwart or seat. Move the pedestal forward and back and have an observer judge the trim based on how much of the tape is showing above the water surface.

For hulls with a symmetrical water footprint a quick and dirty method is to balance the hull on a piece of 2x6 lumber place transversely amidships at a position at which the hull is perfectly balance. Get in the boat without moving its position on the lumber and adjust the pedestal position until the boat balances when the torso is upright. Leaning forward should allow you to weight the bow and leaning backward will weight the stern.

Swedeform boats will generally require seat placement a bit farther aft and fishform hulls further forward.

I have outfitted many whitewater canoes and I have found that for myself given a seating surface height of around 8 inches and given the way I use a canted seat or thwart for kneeling, the front of the thwart or front seat frame winds up about 5" aft of center for a symmetrical hull. For a minicell pedestal with a bit of a backrest the front edge of the backrest winds up about 7" aft of center. This is assuming neutral trim.

I have a MR Explorer 14 and paddled it solo frequently, until I added a solo canoe to my “fleet” last year. I flipped it around and paddled from the front seat when solo.

One issue I can see with moving the seat to the center is the width of the canoe at that point. The Explorer is a pretty wide boat, meaning you’re really going to have a long reach with the paddle. I can’t imagine that being comfortable.

The way I see it is that you are going to make significant changes to the boat to get it to do something it really isn’t meant to do well. Why not simply sell it and use the money towards a boat that is specifically meant for your needs?

canoe outfitting

– Last Updated: Apr-03-16 4:04 PM EST –

Thanks for your detailed response!

I'm only planning on paddling class 1 and 2 water; more interested in river time than getting my adrenaline going. As a result, I'm not looking for too hardcore of a setup.

Would having a line/webbing going under the bags from the front haul rope on the inside of the hull, wrapping up to attach to the cord bag cage, be sufficient? Given the difficulty of glueing to this kind of material, I'd like to avoid it if feasible.

Also, seatwise, I'm leaning towards a wicker seat canted slightly forward, with ensolite paddling to kneel on (which I will have to glue down).

why alter MR 14
I usually paddled just as you describe, in the bow seat paddling stern-first. That was fine on flat class 1, but as I begin to paddle faster water, I’m finding I’m too bow-light with too high a center of gravity.

Why not get a boat designed for solo moving water? Mostly money, something of which teachers unfortunately aren’t made. Getting additional craft is certainly on my agenda, but for now I need to use what I have. Retaining it’s current set up is limiting, and I want to continue progressing into more challenging stuff. I will be saving the seats, etc., so if I ever need it to be tandem again, or when I finally get a dedicated solo craft, I can easily return it to its previous setup. Another reason I’d like to avoid a lot of glueing.

When the seat is centered, the hull
width at the point of paddle entry is narrower than it is at the center. The paddle shaft passes back to the hip and then out, not impeded by the width to any significant degree.

Paddling from the bow seat means that the blade has to enter near the widest part of the boat.

Paddling near the center works out best in terms of trim, hull efficiency, boat control, and dealing with boat width.

Most likely…
That would work. Just don’t use the painter line itself, there will times you want to use the painter line while on the water - for example tieing the canoe off to a tree while stopping.

For what it is worth, my setup doesn’t use that strap that runs from the bow, over the bag, and down to the floor. My bag is held in by the lacing cage and the front bag grommet tied off to the bow of the canoe, and the rear bag grommets tied off yo the bag cage. In my several out of the boat experiences the bag stayed where it was intended to be.

I secure my bag cage lacing by installing webbing loops under thwarts on the boat. Back off the machine screws, perhaps get a longer screw and attach the webbing loop there. If I need a pair webbing loops where there is no thwart, I’ll drill a hole in the gunnel and mount the loop exactly where I want. Make the webbing loop with a half twist and take a heated nail to sear a hole in the webbing and through which you place the machine screw,

probably OK
When water enters the boat, it will flow under the flotation bags and try to float them up out of the boat and out of the stems. Since gas is more compressible than water, the bag volume will also be reduced as it is squeezed between the bag cage lacing and the water on the hull bottom. But you should still have plenty of flotation regardless.

An arrangement such as you describe will probably not hold the bags down as well as a keeper strap(s) or cord(s) anchored to the hull bottom, but it will probably keep the bags in the stems well enough.


– Last Updated: Apr-04-16 8:55 AM EST –

with air bags installed under cord canoe air bags

space occupied by the bags is relatively unusable for other equipment. Bags need d-ring patch hull gluing at midships: one or 2.

then develop a temporary seat, paddle that moving seat forward and aft finding Blanc's center. In real time, the ideal center then allows adjustment bow down or bow up with a 1 or 2 gallon capacity water poly jugs an example.

same for knee pads, for 1 n 2 streams, unglued pads will do it and are more ergonomic even when 'stationary' as pads squirm under paddling.

leave a space, and 14' isn't cargo, if possible for a dry bag possibly behind the seat location. Bags weigh altering hull trim. For many trimming bow up is preferred over trimming bow down. Bow down gives slalom speed turning.

So take the thinking analysis out onto the water n try that out in real time experiment with knowledge of what you think you're doing.

The hands on modification is but one thought out move and application at one time followed by one more.

Don't spill the glue. Or drill the hull.